Give Obama a Break (For Now)

The White House can stand a little bit of a green renovation. (Photo: Diego Cambiaso [CC by SA-2.0]/Flickr)

In case you haven’t noticed, the pressure is on: There’s the Greening the White House petition; there’s the petition urging President-elect Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, to transform the White House Lawn into an organic garden; eco-renovation ideas for the executive residence coming from the Huffington Post, the Daily Green, and other media outlets; calls for Obama to reinstall solar panels on the roof of the White House (Carter installed a solar water heater and Regan took it down); I even have a few suggestions as to what kind of bed the Presidential Pooch should sleep on.

Thanks to former President Clinton, the framework for a more earth-friendly White House is already in place. The framework, 1993’s the Greening the White House report, was prepared by the Rocky Mountain Institute and carried out by the Bush administration after Clinton left office. It’s the real deal. All and all, the White House is already greener than we may think, although I’m sure there’s room for improvement.

However, the demands that Obama is proactive in continuing to green-up the White House are near deafening. Personally, I say give the man time to adjust to his new gig before focusing on his new digs. Green change to the White House will come; let’s just concentrate on fixing the economy before we fix the light bulbs in the Lincoln Bedroom.

The most obvious reason that the Obama administration is under such pressure to render the White House green is to set an eco-example for the rest of the country. Nothing wrong with that, but this got me thinking: Are there other presidents, prime ministers, heads of state, and royalty that reside in eco-friendly homes? Do the leaders of countries with exceptional environmental policies like Iceland, Germany, Denmark and Australia end the day in manses with solar panels and rainwater catchment systems? Did Gordon Brown install bamboo floors when relocating to 10 Downing Street (doesn’t seem so but Number 10 is indeed heading in the right direction)? And what about gubernatorial residences?

After spending perhaps too much time trying to find answers, I came away empty-handed. I do know that Dubya’s off-the-grid ranch in Crawford, Texas, is quite eco-friendly (infamously rumored to be more green than Al Gore’s home). I also know that Prince Charles is an ardent supporter of sustainable building practices. But other than that, I’m left with a big, nagging question mark.

So I turn to you, MNN readers, for information and insight. From what I can tell, the White House is already the greenest chez de world leader. Are there green official residences elsewhere the world — perhaps the Obama administration can look to them for inspiration — that I’m neglecting to mention? And how powerful do you think the impact on American sustainable building practices will actually be if Obama aggressively paints the White House a darker shade of green?